New construction home? Why not?

I inspected a very nice new construction home a while back–excellent builder, that obviously cares about the homes he builds.

I love new construction.

Let me put it a better way.

I LOVE NEW CONSTRUCTION.

Sure there can be issues, but if old and new homes consist of 1000 things that can go wrong, starting at anything less than 500 issues is way better than starting at 1000. Of course I am exaggerating in both extremes. The reality is most older homes are going to have more issues to deal with than a new home will. This new one was better than most new ones. In other words–there was not much to fix. If you think my analogy is wacky let me create a basic list of things to think about:

Grading,

Retaining walls,

Drainage,

Foundation,

Exterior cladding,

Decks,

Windows,

Framing,

Insulation,

Interior finishes,

Plumbing,

Appliances,

Heating/Cooling systems,

Energy efficiency,

Air sealing,

Wiring,

Roofing,

Chimneys,

In older homes, every single one of the things on this list can have issues of deal killer proportions–not to mention just normal everyday kinds of issues from leaky faucets to outdated finishes (unless someone has already spent the money to remedy them–and then of course the house will still have a marginal foundation, marginal framing–or whatever else that has not been upgraded).

Of course we have not even yet started to talk about lead, asbestos and buried oil tanks.

In a new home, how many of the things on that list are going to have issues of deal killer proportions?

I rest my case.

I am sure that most of the things I found wrong in this new home were things that were already on the builder’s own punch list. One thing that I found wrong was in the kitchen, when I turned on the gas range. This is what the burners looked like.

It looked more like what you want your gas fireplace to look like than what you want your range to look like. The problem is a simple one. Someone had not changed the orifices from natural gas to propane.

While I was doing the inspection there was a flurry of activity all around the home as workers rushed to get the place cleaned and detailed. Realistically I was about a week early–but the inspection had already been put off a couple of weeks and it had to be done.

By the time I finished the upstairs and came back downstairs, the appliance installer had changed out the orifices and now the flame looked better.

This meant that now I would not have to report on the defect, but would instead get to use it as blog fodder. So all was not lost.

Did I tell you how much I love new construction?

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Is it true that they don’t build houses like they used to?

It is common for Home Inspectors to whine about the problems with New Construction.  I have to say that for all the faults with these houses, they are almost “always” easier to inspect and result in shorter inspection reports than older homes of comparable size and the monies spent on them.

The Doctor's house at Fort Casey, Whidbey Island, WA

The Doctor’s house at Fort Casey, Whidbey Island, WA

I see some VERY nice new homes out there—-along with the new ones that are not so nice.

It is very easy to point to some beautiful old mansion—-or very well built older home—-and say, “They sure don’t build them like they used to.”  But if we take that 100 year old house with all its faults, and compare it to the cheaper houses built around that same period of time we realize that this nice house is the only one left standing—-there is nothing to compare it to. 

The crappy new houses of today are those same houses of yesterday that are no longer around—-except that they are still here.  It does not mean there are no great ones.  In 100 years, when all the crappy houses being built are no longer around, people will be looking at the houses of Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and millions of other homes that are not anywhere near as expensive as these, and they will be saying, “They sure don’t build them like they used to.”

But back to new construction and a recent inspection—-and I would put this home in the category of those homes that will likely be around in 100 years. 

I was up in the attic and discovered that the vent pipe from the Laundry Exhaust fan had become disconnected and had been turned into an “insulation blowing” machine.

Disconnected exhaust fan

Disconnected exhaust fan

Actually a pretty easy fix—-and one of only a few real defects that I found in the home.  It could have happened in a $150,000 tract home or a Carbon Billionaire’s $12,000,000 Green home.

They actually do still build them like they used to—-and better.

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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New Construction? There is always something!

I recently inspected a new home in Seattle that was one of the nicest homes I have inspected in some time.  New homes within the city limits is not as common as it is in the suburbs because there are already houses on most lots.  As older homes get torn down, as opposed to remodeled, they do pop up occasionally.

The builder took great care throughout the home and everything was constructed well beyond “minimum” industry standards.  I think that this house had the fewest things on the “Summary of Significant Findings” of any house I have ever reported on—of similar size.

As the title indicates however, there was one glaring defect that seemed way out of character with the quality of construction in the rest of the home.  The Front Entryway deck is a tiered structure and neither deck platform was framed properly.  In this first picture one can see that there are no joist hangers or other metal bracketing components present.  The joists are merely end-nailed through the single rim joist (the nice decorative white trim board doesn’t count as it is not structural).

Deck missing components

Deck with missing components

When joists butt into a rim joist as in this situation the rim joist should be at least doubled.  The size of the rim joist depends on many factors, like the number of joists that it has to carry, its length, its size etc.  In this case the single rim joist is a 2×6 and spans more than 6 feet. The inspector does not have to over analyze the situation, or understand anything about what size it should actually be but he should know that it should at least be “doubled” in most cases.

The thing to keep in mind about deck construction is that there are a lot of ways to build them improperly where they are not likely to collapse when new.  It is the “time factor” that makes them a ticking time bomb—-or perhaps when the grand piano is dragged into the home—or the refrigerator is replaced 15 years later.

This next picture shows how the rim joist might be “doubled” and where there should be metal brackets and hangers.

deck repairs

Missing deck components

I have no idea how such a detail could have gotten missed, but it does show that, “there is always something”—even in new construction.

 

 

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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